LONDON, September 6 -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday (Sept 6) he was not willing to contemplate resigning.
"I'll go to Brussels, I'll get a deal and we'll make sure we come out on October 31 - that's what we've got to do," Johnson told Sky News during a visit to Scotland. When asked if he would resign if he could not deliver that, he said: "That is not a hypothesis I'm willing to contemplate." Johnson is pushing for an election on Oct 15, two weeks before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, though opposition parties say they want a no-deal Brexit ruled out before they will agree to an election date. In a sign of how far Brexit has distorted British politics, Johnson's Conservatives expelled 21 rebels on Tuesday - including the grandson of Britain's World War II leader Winston Churchill and two former finance ministers - for seeking to block any exit from the EU without a deal. On Friday, Johnson said the rebels' expulsion "grieved me deeply". "These are friends of mine. I worked with them for many years. But we have to get Brexit done and we were being very clear about the risks we're running now in snarling up the process of leaving the EU in Parliament," he said. "And yes of course I am going to reach out to those colleagues and have been reaching out to them, try and find ways of building bridges but I have got to be clear - we must get Brexit done."
Meanwhile, British opposition parties were discussing on Friday how to respond to Johnson's bid to call a snap election, after the Prime Minister said he would rather die in a ditch than delay the planned Oct 31 departure from the EU. As the United Kingdom spins towards an election, Brexit remains up in the air more than three years after Britons voted to leave the bloc in a 2016 referendum. Options range from a turbulent "no-deal" exit to abandoning the whole endeavor. British lawmakers will on Monday hold another vote on a motion on whether to hold an early election, probably in mid-October, just over two weeks before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on Oct 31. But opposition parties, including the Labour Party, want to ensure that an election does not allow Johnson to lead the United Kingdom out of the EU without a deal. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will hold a conference call with other opposition parties on Friday, a Labour spokesman said. Johnson on Thursday said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than delay Brexit. "We need to be absolutely sure that we are not going to end up in a situation where the general election is used as a distraction whilst they (the government) by some cunning wheeze bounce us out of the European Union without a deal," Emily Thornberry, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, said.
The opposition Scottish National Party (SNP) will only agree a date for an election when it is sure the threat of a no-deal exit has been averted, its leader in the Westminster Parliament said. "We will choose the timing of when an election comes. I want to remove Boris Johnson as prime minister, but we need to make sure we don't leave the European Union on a no-deal basis, that's the first priority," the SNP's Ian Blackford said. An SNP source said: "The SNP is ready for an election, but we will not be played by Boris Johnson." "We are considering all options and discussing with all parties the best way to prevent a disastrous no-deal Brexit and get rid of this shambolic (Conservative) government as soon as possible," the source added.
BEIJING, September 5 -- China’s commerce ministry said that a phone call on Thursday with US top trade negotiators went very well, adding that Beijing opposes any escalation in the trade war.
Both sides will strive to achieve real progress during a high-level meeting scheduled for early October, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in a weekly briefing. China and the United States agreed to hold high-level trade talks in Washington, the ministry said earlier on Thursday, following a phone call between China’s Vice-Premier Liu He and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, People's Bank of China Governor Yi Gang and deputy head of the economic planning commission Ning Jizhe were also on the call. The call came amid fears that an escalating trade war could trigger a global economic recession. "Both sides agreed that they should work together and take practical actions to create good conditions for consultations,” the ministry said. Trade teams from the two countries will hold talks in mid-September before the high-level talks next month, the ministry said. Both sides agreed to take actions to create favourable conditions, it said. A spokesman for the US Trade Representative’s office confirmed that Mr Lighthizer and Mr Mnuchin spoke with Mr Liu and said they agreed to hold ministerial-level trade talks in Washington “in the coming weeks”.
Washington began imposing 15 per cent tariffs on an array of Chinese imports on Sunday, while China began placing new duties on US crude oil. That prompted China to lodge a complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organisation. The United States plans to increase the tariff rate to 30 per cent from the 25 per cent duty already in place on US$250 billion (S$346 billion) worth of Chinese imports from Oct 1. US President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday that he would be tougher on Beijing in a second term if trade talks dragged on, compounding market fears that ongoing trade disputes between the United States and China could trigger a US recession. Chinese leaders will have a packed schedule next month, gearing up for National Day celebrations scheduled for Oct 1. They will also hold a key meeting in October to discuss improving governance and “perfecting” the country’s socialist system, state media has said, more than a year after the last was held. “Neither China nor the US want to be blamed by the rest of world for escalating the trade war and damaging the world economy,” said Mr Zhou Xiaoming, a former Chinese commerce ministry official and diplomat. “But the talks don’t mean the two sides will inch closer or that their stances soften,” he added.
Some within the Trump administration are sceptical that China is willing to make the sort of broad commitment to reforms sought by the US that caused a breakdown in talks in May, according to people familiar with the officials’ thinking. Others have become increasingly focused on trying to calm financial markets and forestall any further economic fallout in the US where Mr rump’s tariffs and the uncertainty surrounding the trade war are being blamed for a slowdown in manufacturing. It is unclear if the two sides will go back to a May draft agreement as the United States has been seeking. "No one is holding their breath” with regard to the talks, said Mr Chua Hak Bin, an economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research in Singapore. “Investors are slowly coming to terms that a trade deal is increasingly remote, with both sides talking tough and preparing for a long battle.”
MILAN, September 4 -- Members of Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement were due to vote online on Tuesday on whether they approved a new coalition with the opposition Democratic Party, known as PD, with fresh elections looming if the pact is rejected.
On Monday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged members of 5-Star to back the coalition, saying the planned government could transform Italy. About 100,000 people who subscribe to 5-Star's so-called Rousseau website were asked to answer the question: "Do you agree that the 5-Star Movement should form a government together with the Democratic Party, chaired by Giuseppe Conte?" Conte on Monday delivered a video speech, through Facebook, to Rousseau subscribers, saying: "I understand your concerns. But I'd also like to remember that the 5-Star, before the elections last year, had said they were ready to join any political force that was ready to carry out the movement's political agenda. Today, we have a great chance to change this country." Shortly after he spoke, 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio also took to Facebook, but delivered a more subdued message and refused to advise his party members on how to vote. "There is no right or wrong vote, there are your ideas and the sum of your ideas will guide the movement," Di Maio said. "Don't be afraid ... we have already won, the world is waiting for the democratic outcome of your vote to know Italy's future."
An SWG opinion poll for La7 television channel said 51 percent of 5-Star supporters backed a tie-up with the PD, while some 69 percent of PD voters endorsed the idea. Though the two parties are longstanding enemies, they are also the two largest parties in Parliament. Italian President Sergio Mattarella gave Conte a mandate last week to try to form a new coalition following Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's decision to pull his right-wing League from a 14-month-old alliance with 5-Star in an attempt to trigger early elections. If no agreement is sealed in the coming week, Mattarella is expected to dissolve Parliament and set a date for a new vote. The 5-Star party's internet portal stated that the government program agreed with the PD would be available online to members when voting started.
Despite differences over policy and ministerial roles, senior figures from both sides spoke in support of a coalition over the weekend as the talks have continued. "I know it is difficult, but we're doing our best to give this country a new government," PD leader Nicola Zingaretti said on Sunday in a video post on Twitter. After talks with Conte, he said on Friday that Italy's next government must cut income taxes to boost consumption, relaunch investment and focus on health and education.
BANGKOK, August 26 -- The government has banned hoarding of glutinous rice and will sell discounted packs as prices soar amid shortages.
Government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat said on Monday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had ordered the Commerce Ministry to prevent hoarding and to launch discounted packs in the wake of the all-time high price of glutinous rice. Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit ordered the Internal Trade Department to impose the ban immediately since the grain is on the ministry's price control list, Mrs Narumon said. "There will be discussions with millers, traders and cooperatives so they can quickly produce packed glutinous rice at a special price to relieve people's trouble," she said. Mrs Narumon attributed the expensive glutinous rice to drought that caused its low yield. The situation should improve when the new yield comes out in October, she said. Glutinous rice now sells for 50,000 baht a tonne while Hom Mali fragrant rice costs 35,000 baht. Local retail prices were nearly 50 baht per kilogram and a smallest bag of steamed glutinous rice is now 10 baht, double recent prices.
BIARRITZ, August 26 -- G-7 leaders discussed the return to the G-8 format with Russia's participation at a summitin the French city of Biarritz, Kyodo news agency reported, citing sources from Japanese government circles.
No details were provided about the content of the interview, and an agency source said the information "will never be disclosed". Earlier, US President Donald Trump agreed to a proposal by his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, to invite Russia to the G7 summit in 2020 in the US. Vladimir Putin, for his part, said that Russia considered all contacts with the G7 countries useful and did not rule out the resumption of the G8 form. German Chancellor Angela Merkel linked the issue of the resumption of the G-8 with progress in resolving the conflict in Ukraine. The G-7 is an association of economically developed countries that includes the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France and Japan. In the form of the seven, the club has existed from 1976 to 1997. After Russia's accession, it became known as the G8
ROTTERDAM, August 25 -- Eleven years after the global financial crisis, the European banking industry is once again preparing for tough days ahead.
After Deutsche Bank announced a large-scale layoff plan not long ago, another large European bank might follow suit to do the same. Italy’s largest bank by asset size UniCredit is considering 10,000 job cuts, accounting for 10% of the bank’s total global workforce. This layoff makes up part of the business plan that UniCredit will announce at the end of this year. UniCredit will announce at least 9,000 layoffs, and almost all the employees getting retrenched will be Italians. The negotiations between UniCredit and the union will begin after the announcement of its business plan for 2020-2023 on December 3 this year. The negotiations between both parties may help to reduce the number of layoffs from the original figures.
UniCredit is a European bank headquartered in Milan, with operations in 19 countries and having more than 28 million customers. It is also one of the largest banking groups in Europe. The core business of UniCredit is mainly distributed in the more well-off regions of Italy, Austria and southern Germany, as well as a large number of businesses in Central and Eastern Europe. With assets of EUR 91 billion, UniCredit has become the largest bank in the Eurozone, the third largest in Europe and the sixth largest in the world. However, its profitability is in decline. According to publicly-accessible information, UniCredit’s net profit for 2018 was EUR 3.892 billion, a decline of nearly 29% compared to a net profit of EUR 5.473 billion in 2017.
The recent frequent layoffs could be a possible indication that the European banking industry has not fully recovered from the financial crisis. After the crisis, the United States adopted quantitative and accommodative monetary and fiscal policies as guarantees, and through legislation to strengthen supervision of the banking industry. At the same time, the government helped the banks through the crisis by using national capital injection. The period of de-leveraging the banking industry is relatively short, and the profitability of the U.S. banking industry therefore recovered within a shorter span of time.
In Europe, there was a lack of a unified fiscal policy. It was only in November 2014 that the single regulatory mechanism for the banking sector in the euro zone was launched. The de-leverage of the European banking industry lacked sufficient policy support and assistance, hence slowing its process of deleveraging. Since the total loans of 27 banks in Europe account for a much higher proportion of non-financial debt than the United States, the impact on the economy in its de-leveraging process was much greater, which in turn affected its profitability.
On a more general level, the poor performance of the European banking industry stemmed from the slow recovery of the European economy and the tightening of banking regulations. Data from the World Bank reveals that from 2010 to 2017, the world’s GDP increased from US$ 65.96 trillion to US$ 80.73 trillion, representing an increase of 22.39%. Among them, the U.S. GDP increased from US$ 14.96 trillion to US$ 19.39 trillion, an increase of 29.61%. However, the EU’s GDP only increased from US$ 16.98 trillion to US$ 17.28 trillion, a mere 1.76% increase and far less than that of the United States. The economic growth of the EU is not only significantly lower than the global average, but also significantly lower than the United States.
The reason why European banking performance is closely related to its economy is because European banks, especially small and medium-sized banks, are not highly globalized, and their business is mainly located in Europe. Only a few larger banks, such as Deutsche Bank, have branches around the world that provide services to customers globally. As the global trade frictions intensify and the downward pressure on the economy increases, the profits of these large banks are being affected. Small and medium-sized banks whose businesses are mainly concentrated in Europe will see difficulty in achieving improvement.
After the financial crisis, especially since the European debt crisis, the strength of regulation in Europe has been increasing. The European debt crisis has exposed two major problems of the European banking industry. Banks conducting higher-risk businesses and the general EU financial system were under-regulated. To resolve this, the EU on the one hand has increased the banking capital adequacy requirements, prohibiting large banks from engaging in proprietary trading, and curbing excessive speculation in the banking industry. On the other hand, it established a banking industry alliance to form a unified regulatory mechanism, clearing mechanism and deposit insurance system. However, EU member states have major differences in the relevant new banking regulations. The increase in capital adequacy ratio and the divestiture of risky assets have augmented the stability of the banking industry. At the same time, it also led to a decline in the income and profit of the banking industry.
Kevin Dowd, a professor of finance and economics at Durham University, has previously analyzed that the large European banks have suffered setbacks in the United States, and also contraction of their business activities. However, a careful analysis will reveal that the main problem in the EU banking industry is happening in European soil. The European banking industry is facing a major repayment crisis, and this crisis has been brewing for a long time. The thorny issue facing the European banking industry is caused by none other than the EU itself.
Due to quantitative easing policies and excessive tolerance policies, the existing problems have worsened. Dowd believes that the EU banking industry is currently moving in the direction towards a crisis, and the EU bank’s bad debt loaning solution will fail to work. In the end, there will be the scenario where the taxpayers will have to bailout the banking industry who will then become too big to fail. It is worth noting that both Deutsche Bank and UniCredit are regarded as banks with high importance in the global financial system. If these banks are having problems, they will inevitably hold a major impact over the European financial system. In particular, the European economy has not recovered from the crisis so far. With the global trade war resulting in economic slowdown, the European Central Bank has clearly stated that in order to support economic growth, it may further introduce easing policies and even cut interest rates further.
Long-term negative interest rates have seriously affected the profitability of the European banking industry, and should the interest rates fall further, the impact on these banks will be even greater. As these banks get into trouble, they will also affect the lending behavior of enterprises, which will in turn drag down the growth of the entire European economy and thus turning these events into a vicious cycle. If this shock continues to expand, it may trigger a new round of global economic crisis.
Final analysis conclusion: The recent frequent layoffs in the European banking industry have highlighted its vulnerability in the post-crisis era, and in the context of global trade war and economic slowdown, this vulnerability may eventually evolve into a trigger for a new global economic crisis.
HONIARA, August 25 -- In June, then newly elected Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced that the Pacific nation would decide within 100 days whether to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.
Solomon Islands has been allied with Taiwan since 1983, and with a population of just over 600,000, it is the largest of the six Pacific states that recognize the self-governed island, which China considers a renegade province. However, with the 100-day deadline soon approaching, the islands' government appears more torn than ever over the impending decision, and lawmakers say the final call could be postponed for months. Opposition leader Matthew Wale told Kyodo News that while the decision of whether to switch ties lies entirely with the government, he understands that an outcome "will maybe be reached by November." Wale's comments come as former Prime Minister and current Minister for National Planning and Aid Coordination Rick Houenipwela told Radio New Zealand that a vote in parliament would not happen at all this year. Houenipwela was one of 16 pro-government lawmakers who on Wednesday publicly announced their strong support for the Solomon Islands remaining with Taiwan, citing fears of "debt-trap diplomacy" with which China's Belt and Road infrastructure development initiative is often associated. "We state very clearly that we will not support any policy to change Solomon Islands diplomatic ties from Republic of China (Taiwan) to the People's Republic of China (PRC)," the statement, published on the Solomon Business Magazine Facebook page, read. "We believe the long term interests of our country -- in terms of our development aspirations, as well as respect for democratic principles, human rights, rule of law, human dignity, and mutual respect -- lie with Taiwan, not the PRC," it said. Signatories to the letter account for over half of government ministers, including Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele and Deputy Prime Minister John Maneniaru. The prime minister is also understood to continue to "cherish Solomon Islands relations with Taiwan," according to the letter.
BIARRITZ, August 25 -- Leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations shared the view Saturday that Iran should not possess nuclear weapons while still differing in their approaches to finding a resolution to the issue as they kicked off a three-day summit in France.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who visited Iran in June to help diffuse heightened tensions in the Middle East, told the other G-7 leaders in the French coastal city of Biarritz that Tokyo will continue to engage with Tehran on the diplomatic front, a senior Japanese government official said. "The leaders exchanged various views (on issues such as Iran) and efforts were made by each country toward finding common ground," the official said. G-7 members have been jittery over U.S. President Donald Trump's strategy to shake up multilateral arrangements to advance U.S. interests -- notably his withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal that has ratcheted up tensions in the Middle East. The big question of whether the G-7 -- made up of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States plus the European Union -- is an effective forum for tackling global issues still looms large following past clashes between the United States and other members. The leaders also discussed Russia's potential return to the G-7 framework over dinner that lasted nearly three hours, the official said without giving further details. Russia was dropped from the then Group of Eight after its annexation of Crimea in 2014 which it drew sharp international outcry.
Despite Trump's push for readmitting Russia, other G-7 members are opposed due to a lack of progress on the Crimea issue. With its unity in doubt, the G-7 leaders are expected to discuss a range of topics in the coming days from the global economy and digitalization to inequality and North Korea. They agreed Saturday on the need to extend assistance over Amazon rainforest fires in Brazil.
Trump, who reportedly had reservations about attending the G-7 meeting, said on Twitter that his evening meeting with world leaders went "very well," adding, "Progress being made!"
PARIS, August 24 -- Donald Trump landed in France with First Lady Melania for the G7 summit Saturday, after taking a swipe at fellow leaders, calling them "friends of mine, for the most part" but not in "100 percent of the cases".
The president threw shade at some of America's closest partners on Friday evening, mere hours before he'd see them in Biarritz at the Group of Seven summit. He threatened to tax French 'like they've never seen before' and characterized world leaders attending the event as 'friends for the most part' in front of Marine One. 'We're going to France. We'll have a good few days. I think it will be very productive, seeing a lot of leaders who are friends of mine, for the most part,' he said of his trip, smirking as he added, "Wouldn't say in 100 percent of the cases, but for the most part." He did not say which leaders were getting under his skin, but Trump offered several hints in the comments he delivered outside the White House before he left for Europe with first lady Melania. She arrived into Biarritz wearing a yellow dress with pink stiletto heels and sunglasses. The first lady had departed Washington wearing a Chanel jacket, white pants and a black top. Trump harped on France's digital tax, which he said U.S. tech companies don't deserve. He noted that he's 'not the biggest fan of the tech companies,' which he again accused them of interfering in his election.
Yet, he said, their regulation should be up to the United States, and not foreign countries like France. "I don't like what France did. They put a digital tax on our tech companies," he said. "Those are great American companies, and frankly, I don't want France going out and taxing our companies, very unfair." He cautioned French President Emmanuel Macron against moving ahead with the action that could spark a protracted trade war with the United States. It is understood the two world leaders will have an unscheduled lunch together Saturday. "If they do that, we'll be taxing their wine, or doing something else. We'll be taxing their wine, like they've never seen before," Trump promised. Whether he meant for the earlier jab about his 'friends' in the global community to land on Macron or another leader he'll be seeing like German Chancellor Angela Merkel was unclear.
BEIJING, August 24 -- China said Friday that it will impose further tariffs on U.S. imports worth around $75 billion, in retaliation for planned tariff hikes on Chinese products by Washington.
The Commerce Ministry said it will impose additional tariffs of 5 percent or 10 percent on a total of 5,078 products of U.S. goods, some of which would take effect on Sept. 1 and the rest on Dec. 15. China will also resume imposing additional tariffs of 25 percent and 5 percent on U.S.-made vehicles and auto parts starting from Dec. 15, the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council announced. The announcement comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged that Washington will impose 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, effective on those two dates, in a move that would see nearly all imports from Asia's biggest economy taxed. The U.S. decision "has greatly hurt interests" of China, the United States and other countries and "has seriously threatened the multilateral trade system and the free trade system," Beijing said, adding, "China is forced to take reciprocal measures." "We hope China and the United States will resolve differences in a manner acceptable to both sides on the premise of mutual respect, equality, good faith, and consistency of words and deeds," the Customs Tariff Commission said in a statement.
The Trump administration has so far imposed 25 percent levies on a total of $250 billion of Chinese imports in an effort to reduce the chronic U.S. trade deficit with China, as well as to address alleged intellectual property and technology theft by Chinese companies. On Aug. 13, it delayed imposing a 10 percent tariff on laptop computers, cellphones, video game consoles and other "certain articles" imported from China to Dec. 15 from Sept. 1 as planned. The announcement drew some relief from retailers and other businesses concerned that the new levies, which in combination with current ones would have meant tariffs on nearly all Chinese imports, could have dampened consumption especially around the holiday shopping season.